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History of Fashion in 100 Objects

A review of the Fashion Museum, Bath:

The history of fashion always brings out the geek in me and the current exhibition at the Fashion Museum in Bath certainly had that effect. The current exhibition is advertised as a History of Fashion in 100 Objects but I would describe it as a whistle stop tour of the history of the world. The attire of our ancestors reflects what was happening in the world economically and socially and each garment, shoe and accessory has been carefully selected to represent a defining moment in time. For example, the 1840’s striped wool dress in the photo below, demonstrates the decade that saw the patent of the sewing machine submitted by Elias Howe. Or Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’ created in 1947, an outfit consisting of a wide shouldered jacket and a large ballooned skirt. It was both admired and criticised as the design used more than double the amount of fabric of utilitarian clothing from the same decade. British customers were still restricted by rationing but the revolutionary design represents the end of the austerity of World War II. Moving on, we reach the dizzy heights of the mini skirt and psychedelic prints of the 1960s, a symbol of a sexually liberated generation.

Wool dress from 1840s, Fashion Museum, Bath

1958 Beaded evening dress by Norman Hartnell, commissioned to promote the use of synthetic fabrics in high end fashion and worn by Elizabeth Taylor.

I stopped briefly to take a photo for a mum and her daughter, dressed up in empire line dresses and bonnets, as if they had stepped straight out of a Jane Austen novel. The 100 Objects exhibition continues in chronological order transporting me to the present decade, with designs by Jonathan Anderson, who was the first fashion designer to win both the Menswear and Womenswear title in the same year, 2015.

 The Fashion museum, previously known as the Museum of Costume, was founded due to the generosity Doris Langley Moore who donated her collection to the city in 1963. It is housed in the Assembly Rooms not far from Nash’s Royal Crescent.
The History of Fashion in 100 Objects is on until January 2019 ‘celebrating fashion from the 1600’s to the present day’. Half way through the exhibition is a detour into a sister exhibition, Lace in Fashion. It guides you from Lace’s intricate hand created beginnings to the technological advances of today. 

 I was lucky enough to stay at the award winning Gainsborough Hotel, a short walk from Bath Spa station. Champalimaud Design, based in New York, have managed to achieve the impossible task of creating a warm, welcoming and yet modern space in the Grade II listed building. The focus of the hotel is it’s ‘Spa Village‘ which makes the most of its adavantageous access to one of the city’s natural spa that provides the hotel’s pools with thermal mineral rich waters. A dip in one of the Spa Village thermal pools seemed to fizz away all the aches from spending too long at a desk. I now understood why the Romans, Georgians and Victorians flocked to the city to improve their health. A welcome plate of handmade truffles, a mixologist that devised a bespoke cocktail based on my favourite flavours and a restaurant serving seasonal and delicately flavoured food, the Gainsborough is on my list of favourite hotels! My stay in Bath was far too short and I left with a promise to return for a longer trip to the Georgian city.

  The Gainsborough hotel offer spa days and overnight packages when booked on their website. The featured image is of a 1930’s ball gown by Donguy of Paris. 

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Vintage Stories: When the stars align

Louise from Shoreditch Design Rooms shares her vintage story with Olive Road.

Gliding seamlessly from studying astro physics to setting up a successful upholstery school isn’t the most obvious of career paths but Louise from the Shoreditch Design Rooms did just that. Louise lived on Gower street in central London, a pebbles throw from the beautiful university buildings of University College London (UCL) where she was studying. Twenty years later and a further few miles to the east, Louise was building a different type of school. The Shoreditch Design Rooms on Hackney Road teaches around 70 students in upholstery and soft furnishings from beginners to professional upholsterers. The college is renowned for having small classes so students can learn on a one to one basis, pick up tips from each other and learn from the commercial workshop attached to the school. 

I bumped into Louise whilst she was demonstrating her skills at Sew Amazing on Roman Road. Owner Robb helped Louise source the industrial machines she needed for the college and he continues to service the machines ‘A sewing machine is so important and I can rely on Robb to look after it really well’ Louise she tells me.  We share our excitement of transforming a much loved old piece of furniture or fabric into a brand new object when Louise tells me the most wonderful coincidence that happened to her whilst she was in the midst of building the school. ‘I was looking for something that would work as a good cutting table. The right height so students didn’t have to bend down but long and wide enough to hold a length of upholstery fabric’. She came across some benches outside a reclamation yard, discared on the street, left to fend against the elements. The benches are solid mahogany oak and from inspecting the detail, Louise could see they were obviously hand made. Each of the drawers underneath the bench are numbered as they only fit in that custom made home. Sadly Louise only had room for five benches out of the 250 available and the rest were probably damaged beyond repair from being left in the rain. There was something familiar about the benches, when Louise asked the trader it turns out he had acquired them from UCL. Not only the same university Louise attended but from the same science labs. ‘I knew they were the same as when I sit up at them I can’t get my legs underneath and I remember that from being at college. It felt like such a good omen’.

The Shoreditch Design Rooms offer AMUSF accredited courses or taster evening classes for upholstery and soft furnishings. Full details on their website